The Approach to Philosophy

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The Approach to Philosophy

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Transcriber's Notes: Some typographical errors have been corrected. A complete list follows the text. Words in Greek in the original are transliterated and placed between +plus signs+. Words italicized in the original are surrounded by underscores.










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In an essay on "The Problem of Philosophy at the Present Time," Professor Edward Caird says that "philosophy is not a first venture into a new field of thought, but the rethinking of a secular and religious consciousness which has been developed, in the main, independently of philosophy."[vii:A] If there be any inspiration and originality in this book, they are due to my great desire that philosophy should appear in its vital relations to more familiar experiences. If philosophy is, as is commonly assumed, appropriate to a phase in the development of every individual, it should grow out of interests to which he is already alive. And if the great philosophers are indeed never dead, this fact should manifest itself in their classic or historical representation of a perennial outlook upon the world. I am not seeking to attach to philosophy a fictitious liveliness, wherewith to insinuate it into the good graces of the student. I hope rather to be true to the meaning of philosophy. For there is that in its stand-point and its problem which makes it universally significant entirely apart from dialectic and erudition. These are derived interests, indispensable to the scholar, but quite separable from that modicum of philosophy which helps to make the man. The present book is written for the sake of elucidating the inevitable philosophy. It seeks to make the reader more solicitously aware of the philosophy that is in him, or to provoke him to philosophy in his own interests. To this end I have sacrificed all else to the task of mediating between the tradition and technicalities of the academic discipline and the more common terms of life.

The purpose of the book will in part account for those shortcomings that immediately reveal themselves to the eye of the scholar. In

Part I various great human interests have been selected as points of departure.

I have sought to introduce the general stand-point and problem of philosophy through its implication in practical life, poetry, religion, and science. But in so doing it has been necessary for me to deal shortly with topics of great independent importance, and so risk the disfavor of those better skilled in these several matters. This is evidently true of the chapter which deals with natural science. But the problem which I there faced differed radically from those of the foregoing chapters, and the method of treatment is correspondingly different. In the case of natural science one has to deal with a body of knowledge which is frequently regarded as the only knowledge. To write a chapter about science from a philosophical stand-point is, in the present state of opinion, to undertake a polemic against exclusive naturalism, an attitude which is itself philosophical, and as such is well known in the history of philosophy as positivism or agnosticism. I have avoided the polemical spirit and method so far as possible, but have, nevertheless, here taken sides against a definite philosophical position. This chapter, together with the Conclusion, is therefore an exception to the purely introductory and expository representation which I have, on the whole, sought to give. The relatively great space accorded to the discussion of religion is, in my own belief, fair to the general interest in this topic, and to the intrinsic significance of its relation to philosophy.

I have in

Part II undertaken to furnish the reader with a map of the

country to which he has been led. To this end I have attempted a brief survey of the entire programme of philosophy. An accurate and full account of philosophical terms can be found in such books as Külpe's "Introduction to Philosophy" and Baldwin's "Dictionary of Philosophy," and an attempt to emulate their thoroughness would be superfluous, even if it were conformable to the general spirit of this book. The scope of

Part II is due in part to a desire for brevity, but chiefly to the hope

of furnishing an epitome that shall follow the course of the natural and historical differentiation of the general philosophical problem.

Finally, I have in

Part III sought to present the tradition of

philosophy in the form of general types. My purpose in undertaking so difficult a task is to acquaint the reader with philosophy in the concrete; to show how certain underlying principles may determine the whole circle of philosophical ideas, and give them unity and distinctive flavor.

Part II offers a general classification of philosophical

problems and conceptions independently of any special point of view. But I have in

Part III sought to emphasize the point of view, or the

internal consistency that makes a system of philosophy out of certain answers to the special problems of philosophy. In such a division into types, lines are of necessity drawn too sharply. There will be many historical philosophies that refuse to fit, and many possibilities unprovided for. I must leave it to the individual reader to overcome this abstractness through his own reflection upon the intermediate and variant stand-points.

Although the order is on the whole that of progressive complexity, I have sought to treat each chapter with independence enough to make it possible for it to be read separately; and I have provided a carefully selected bibliography in the hope that this book may serve as a stimulus and guide to the reading of other books.

The earlier chapters have already appeared as articles: Chapter I in the International Journal of Ethics, Vol. XIII, No. 4; Chapter II in the Philosophical Review, Vol. XI, No. 6; Chapter III in the Monist, Vol. XIV, No. 5; Chapter IV in the International Journal of Ethics, Vol. XV, No. 1; and some paragraphs of Chapter V in the Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, Vol. I, No. 7. I am indebted to the editors of these periodicals for permission to reprint with minor changes.

In the writing of this, my first book, I have been often reminded that a higher critic, skilled in the study of internal evidence, could probably trace all of its ideas to suggestions that have come to me from my teachers and colleagues of the Department of Philosophy in Harvard University. I have unscrupulously forgotten what of their definite ideas I have adapted to my own use, but not that I received from them the major portion of my original philosophical capital. I am especially indebted to Professor William James for the inspiration and resources which I have received from his instruction and personal friendship.


CAMBRIDGE, March, 1905.


[vii:A] Edw. Caird: Literature and Philosophy, Vol. I, p. 207.







§ 1. Is Philosophy a Merely Academic Interest? 3 § 2. Life as a Starting-point for Thought 4 § 3. The Practical Knowledge of Means 8 § 4. The Practical Knowledge of the End or Purpose 10 § 5. The Philosophy of the Devotee, the Man of Affairs, and the Voluptuary 12 § 6. The Adoption of Purposes and the Philosophy of Life 17



§ 7. Who is the Philosopher-Poet? 24 § 8. Poetry as Appreciation 25 § 9. Sincerity in Poetry. Whitman 27 § 10. Constructive Knowledge in Poetry. Shakespeare 30 § 11. Philosophy in Poetry. The World-view. Omar Khayyam 36 § 12. Wordsworth 38 § 13. Dante 42 § 14. The Difference between Poetry and Philosophy 48



§ 15. The Possibility of Defining Religion 53 § 16. The Profitableness of Defining Religion 54 § 17. The True Method of Defining Religion 56 § 18. Religion as Belief 59 § 19. Religion as Belief in a Disposition or Attitude 62 § 20. Religion as Belief in the Disposition of the Residual Environment, or Universe 64 § 21. Examples of Religious Belief 66 § 22. Typical Religious Phenomena. Conversion 69 § 23. Piety 72 § 24. Religious Instruments, Symbolism, and Modes of Conveyance 74 § 25. Historical Types of Religion. Primitive Religions 77 § 26. Buddhism 78 § 27. Critical Religion 79



§ 28. Résumé of Psychology of Religion 82 § 29. Religion Means to be True 82 § 30. Religion Means to be Practically True. God is a Disposition from which Consequences May Rationally be Expected 85 § 31. Historical Examples of Religious Truth and Error. The Religion of Baal 88 § 32. Greek Religion 89 § 33. Judaism and Christianity 92 § 34. The Cognitive Factor in Religion 96 § 35. The Place of Imagination in Religion 97 § 36. The Special Functions of the Religious Imagination 101 § 37. The Relation between Imagination and Truth in Religion 105 § 38. The Philosophy Implied in Religion and in Religions 108



§ 39. The True Relations of Philosophy and Science. Misconceptions and Antagonisms 114 § 40. The Spheres of Philosophy and Science 117 § 41. The Procedure of a Philosophy of Science 120 § 42. The Origin of the Scientific Interest 123 § 43. Skill as Free 123 § 44. Skill as Social 126 § 45. Science for Accommodation and Construction 127 § 46. Method and Fundamental Conceptions of Natural Science. The Descriptive Method 128 § 47. Space, Time, and Prediction 130 § 48. The Quantitative Method 132 § 49. The General Development of Science 134 § 50. The Determination of the Limits of Natural Science 135 § 51. Natural Science is Abstract 136 § 52. The Meaning of Abstractness in Truth 139 § 53. But Scientific Truth is Valid for Reality 142 § 54. Relative Practical Value of Science and Philosophy 143





§ 55. The Impossibility of an Absolute Division of the Problem of Philosophy 149 § 56. The Dependence of the Order of Philosophical Problems upon the Initial Interest 152 § 57. Philosophy as the Interpretation of Life 152 § 58. Philosophy as the Extension of Science 154 § 59. The Historical Differentiation of the Philosophical Problem 155 § 60. Metaphysics Seeks a Most Fundamental Conception 157 § 61. Monism and Pluralism 159 § 62. Ontology and Cosmology Concern Being and Process 159 § 63. Mechanical and Teleological Cosmologies 160 § 64. Dualism 162 § 65. The New Meaning of Monism and Pluralism 163 § 66. Epistemology Seeks to Understand the Possibility of Knowledge 164 § 67. Scepticism, Dogmatism, and Agnosticism 166 § 68. The Source and Criterion of Knowledge according to Empiricism and Rationalism. Mysticism 168 § 69. The Relation of Knowledge to its Object according to Realism, and the Representative Theory 172 § 70. The Relation of Knowledge to its Object according to Idealism 175 § 71. Phenomenalism, Spiritualism, and Panpsychism 176 § 72. Transcendentalism, or Absolute Idealism 177



§ 73. The Normative Sciences 180 § 74. The Affiliations of Logic 182 § 75. Logic Deals with the Most General Conditions of Truth in Belief 183 § 76. The Parts of Formal Logic. Definition, Self-evidence, Inference, and Observation 184 § 77. Present Tendencies. Theory of the Judgment 187 § 78. Priority of Concepts 188 § 79. Æsthetics Deals with the Most General Conditions of Beauty. Subjectivistic and Formalistic Tendencies 189 § 80. Ethics Deals with the Most General Conditions of Moral Goodness 191 § 81. Conceptions of the Good. Hedonism 191 § 82. Rationalism 193 § 83. Eudæmonism and Pietism. Rigorism and Intuitionism 194 § 84. Duty and Freedom. Ethics and Metaphysics 196 § 85. The Virtues, Customs, and Institutions 198 § 86. The Problems of Religion. The Special Interests of Faith 199 § 87. Theology Deals with the Nature and Proof of God 200 § 88. The Ontological Proof of God 200 § 89. The Cosmological Proof of God 203 § 90. The Teleological Proof of God 204 § 91. God and the World. Theism and Pantheism 205 § 92. Deism 206 § 93. Metaphysics and Theology 207 § 94. Psychology is the Theory of the Soul 208 § 95. Spiritual Substance 209 § 96. Intellectualism and Voluntarism 210 § 97. Freedom of the Will. Necessitarianism, Determinism, and Indeterminism 211 § 98. Immortality. Survival and Eternalism 212 § 99. The Natural Science of Psychology. Its Problems and Method 213 § 100. Psychology and Philosophy 216 § 101. Transition from Classification by Problems to Classification by Doctrines. Naturalism. Subjectivism. Absolute Idealism. Absolute Realism 217





§ 102. The General Meaning of Materialism 223 § 103. Corporeal Being 224 § 104. Corporeal Processes. Hylozoism and Mechanism 225 § 105. Materialism and Physical Science 228 § 106. The Development of the Conceptions of Physical Science. Space and Matter 228 § 107. Motion and its Cause. Development and Extension of the Conception of Force 231 § 108. The Development and Extension of the Conception of Energy 236 § 109. The Claims of Naturalism 239 § 110. The Task of Naturalism 241 § 111. The Origin of the Cosmos 242 § 112. Life. Natural Selection 244 § 113. Mechanical Physiology 246 § 114. Mind. The Reduction to Sensation 247 § 115. Automatism 248 § 116. Radical Materialism. Mind as an Epiphenomenon 250 § 117. Knowledge. Positivism and Agnosticism 252 § 118. Experimentalism 255 § 119. Naturalistic Epistemology not Systematic 256 § 120. General Ethical Stand-point 258 § 121. Cynicism and Cyrenaicism 259 § 122. Development of Utilitarianism. Evolutionary Conception of Social Relations 260 § 123. Naturalistic Ethics not Systematic 262 § 124. Naturalism as Antagonistic to Religion 263 § 125. Naturalism as the Basis for a Religion of Service, Wonder, and Renunciation 265



§ 126. Subjectivism Originally Associated with Relativism and Scepticism 267 § 127. Phenomenalism and Spiritualism 271 § 128. Phenomenalism as Maintained by Berkeley. The Problem Inherited from Descartes and Locke 272 § 129. The Refutation of Material Substance 275 § 130. The Application of the Epistemological Principle 277 § 131. The Refutation of a Conceived Corporeal World 278 § 132. The Transition to Spiritualism 280 § 133. Further Attempts to Maintain Phenomenalism 281 § 134. Berkeley's Spiritualism. Immediate Knowledge of the Perceiver 284 § 135. Schopenhauer's Spiritualism, or Voluntarism. Immediate Knowledge of the Will 285 § 136. Panpsychism 287 § 137. The Inherent Difficulty in Spiritualism. No Provision for Objective Knowledge 288 § 138. Schopenhauer's Attempt to Universalize Subjectivism. Mysticism 290 § 139. Objective Spiritualism 292 § 140. Berkeley's Conception of God as Cause, Goodness, and Order 293 § 141. The General Tendency of Subjectivism to Transcend Itself 297 § 142. Ethical Theories. Relativism 298 § 143. Pessimism and Self-denial 299 § 144. The Ethics of Welfare 300 § 145. The Ethical Community 302 § 146. The Religion of Mysticism 303 § 147. The Religion of Individual Coöperation with God 304



§ 148. The Philosopher's Task, and the Philosopher's Object, or the Absolute 306 § 149. The Eleatic Conception of Being 309 § 150. Spinoza's Conception of Substance 311 § 151. Spinoza's Proof of God, the Infinite Substance. The Modes and the Attributes 312 § 152. The Limits of Spinoza's Argument for God 315 § 153. Spinoza's Provision for the Finite 317 § 154. Transition to Teleological Conceptions 317 § 155. Early Greek Philosophers not Self-critical 319 § 156. Curtailment of Philosophy in the Age of the Sophists 319 § 157. Socrates and the Self-criticism of the Philosopher 321 § 158. Socrates's Self-criticism a Prophecy of Truth 323 § 159. The Historical Preparation for Plato 324 § 160. Platonism: Reality as the Absolute Ideal or Good 326 § 161. The Progression of Experience toward God 329 § 162. Aristotle's Hierarchy of Substances in Relation to Platonism 332 § 163. The Aristotelian Philosophy as a Reconciliation of Platonism and Spinozism 335 § 164. Leibniz's Application of the Conception of Development to the Problem of Imperfection 336 § 165. The Problem of Imperfection Remains Unsolved 338 § 166. Absolute Realism in Epistemology. Rationalism 339 § 167. The Relation of Thought and its Object in Absolute Realism 340 § 168. The Stoic and Spinozistic Ethics of Necessity 342 § 169. The Platonic Ethics of Perfection 344 § 170. The Religion of Fulfilment and the Religion of Renunciation 346



§ 171. General Constructive Character of Absolute Idealism 349 § 172. The Great Outstanding Problems of Absolutism 351 § 173. The Greek Philosophers and the Problem of Evil. The Task of the New Absolutism 352 § 174. The Beginning of Absolute Idealism in Kant's Analysis of Experience 354 § 175. Kant's Principles Restricted to the Experiences which they Set in Order 356 § 176. The Post-Kantian Metaphysics is a Generalization of the Cognitive and Moral Consciousness as Analyzed by Kant. The Absolute Spirit 358 § 177. Fichteanism, or the Absolute Spirit as Moral Activity 360 § 178. Romanticism, or the Absolute Spirit as Sentiment 361 § 179. Hegelianism, or the Absolute Spirit as Dialectic 361 § 180. The Hegelian Philosophy of Nature and History 363 § 181. Résumé. Failure of Absolute Idealism to Solve the Problem of Evil 365 § 182. The Constructive Argument for Absolute Idealism is Based upon the Subjectivistic Theory of Knowledge 368 § 183. The Principle of Subjectivism Extended to Reason 371 § 184. Emphasis on Self-consciousness in Early Christian Philosophy 372 § 185. Descartes's Argument for the Independence of the Thinking Self 374 § 186. Empirical Reaction of the English Philosophers 376 § 187. To Save Exact Science Kant Makes it Dependent on Mind 377 § 188. The Post-Kantians Transform Kant's Mind-in-general into an Absolute Mind 380 § 189. The Direct Argument. The Inference from the Finite Mind to the Infinite Mind 382 § 190. The Realistic Tendency in Absolute Idealism 385 § 191. The Conception of Self-consciousness Central in the Ethics of Absolute Idealism. Kant 386 § 192. Kantian Ethics Supplemented through the Conceptions of Universal and Objective Spirit 388 § 193. The Peculiar Pantheism and Mysticism of Absolute Idealism 390 § 194. The Religion of Exuberant Spirituality 393



§ 195. Liability of Philosophy to Revision Due to its Systematic Character 395 § 196. The One Science and the Many Philosophies 396 § 197. Progress in Philosophy. The Sophistication or Eclecticism of the Present Age 398 § 198. Metaphysics. The Antagonistic Doctrines of Naturalism and Absolutism 399 § 199. Concessions from the Side of Absolutism. Recognition of Nature. The Neo-Fichteans 401 § 200. The Neo-Kantians 403 § 201. Recognition of the Individual. Personal Idealism 404 § 202. Concessions from the Side of Naturalism. Recognition of Fundamental Principles 405 § 203. Recognition of the Will. Pragmatism 407 § 204. Summary and Transition to Epistemology 408 § 205. The Antagonistic Doctrines of Realism and Idealism. Realistic Tendency in Empirical Idealism 409 § 206. Realistic Tendency in Absolute Idealism. The Conception of Experience 410 § 207. Idealistic Tendencies in Realism. The Immanence Philosophy 412 § 208. The Interpretation of Tradition as the Basis for a New Construction 413 § 209. The Truth of the Physical System, but Failure of Attempt to Reduce all Experience to it 414 § 210. Truth of Psychical Relations but Impossibility of General Reduction to them 415 § 211. Truth of Logical and Ethical Principles. Validity of Ideal of Perfection, but Impossibility of Deducing the Whole of Experience from it 415 § 212. Error and Evil cannot be Reduced to the Ideal 417 § 213. Collective Character of the Universe as a Whole 419 § 214. Moral Implications of Such Pluralistic Philosophy. Purity of the Good 420 § 215. The Incentive to Goodness 422 § 216. The Justification of Faith 423 § 217. The Worship and Service of God 425 § 218. The Philosopher and the Standards of the Market-Place 425 § 219. The Secularism of the Present Age 427 § 220. The Value of Contemplation for Life 428








[Sidenote: Is Philosophy a Merely Academic Interest?]

§ 1. Philosophy suffers the distinction of being regarded as essentially an academic pursuit. The term philosophy, to be sure, is used in common speech to denote a stoical manner of accepting the vicissitudes of life; but this conception sheds little or no light upon the meaning of philosophy as a branch of scholarship. The men who write the books on "Epistemology" or "Ontology," are regarded by the average man of affairs, even though he may have enjoyed a "higher education," with little sympathy and less intelligence. Not even philology seems less concerned with the real business of life. The pursuit of philosophy appears to be a phenomenon of extreme and somewhat effete culture, with its own peculiar traditions, problems, and aims, and with little or nothing to contribute to the real enterprises of society. It is easy to prove to the satisfaction of the philosopher that such a view is radically mistaken. But it is another and more serious matter to bridge over the very real gap that separates philosophy and common-sense. Such an aim is realized only when philosophy is seen to issue from some special interest that is humanly important; or when, after starting in thought at a point where one deals with ideas and interests common to all, one is led by the inevitableness of consistent thinking into the sphere of philosophy.

[Sidenote: Life as a Starting-point for Thought.]

§ 2. There is but one starting-point for reflection when all men are invited to share in it. Though there be a great many special platforms where special groups of men may take their stand together, there is only one platform broad enough for all. This universal stand-point, or common platform, is life. It is our more definite thesis, then, that philosophy, even to its most abstruse technicality, is rooted in life; and that it is inseparably bound up with the satisfaction of practical needs, and the solution of practical problems.

Every man knows what it is to live, and his immediate experience will verify those features of the adventure that stand out conspicuously. To begin with, life is our birthright. We did not ask for it, but when we grew old enough to be self-conscious we found ourselves in possession of it. Nor is it a gift to be neglected, even if we had the will. As is true of no other gift of nature, we must use it, or cease to be. There is a unique urgency about life. But we have already implied more, in so far as we have said that it must be used, and have thereby referred to some form of movement or activity as its inseparable attribute. To live is to find one's self compelled to do something. To do something--there is another implication of life: some outer expression, some medium in which to register the degree and form of its activity. Such we recognize as the environment of life, the real objects among which it is placed; which it may change, or from which it may suffer change. Not only do we find our lives as unsolicited active powers, but find, as well, an arena prescribed for their exercise. That we shall act, and in a certain time and place, and with reference to certain other realities, this is the general condition of things that is encountered when each one of us discovers life. In short, to live means to be compelled to do something under certain circumstances.

There is another very common aspect of life that would not at first glance seem worthy of mention. Not only does life, as we have just described it, mean opportunity, but it means self-conscious opportunity. The facts are such as we have found them to be, and as each one of us has previously found them for himself. But when we discover life for ourselves, we who make the discovery, and we who live, are identical. From that moment we both live, and know that we live. Moreover, such is the essential unity of our natures that our living must now express our knowing, and our knowing guide and illuminate our living. Consider the allegory of the centipede. From the beginning of time he had manipulated his countless legs with exquisite precision. Men had regarded him with wonder and amazement. But he was innocent of his own art, being a contrivance of nature, perfectly constructed to do her bidding. One day the centipede discovered life. He discovered himself as one who walks, and the newly awakened intelligence, first observing, then foreseeing, at length began to direct the process. And from that moment the centipede, because he could not remember the proper order of his going, lost all his former skill, and became the poor clumsy victim of his own self-consciousness. This same self-consciousness is the inconvenience and the great glory of human life. We must stumble along as best we can, guided by the feeble light of our own little intelligence. If nature starts us on our way, she soon hands over the torch, and bids us find the trail for ourselves. Most men are brave enough to regard this as the best thing of all; some despair on account of it. In either case it is admittedly the true story of human life. We must live as separate selves, observing, foreseeing, and planning. There are two things that we can do about it. We can repudiate our natures, decline the responsibility, and degenerate to the level of those animals that never had our chance; or we can leap joyously to the helm, and with all the strength and wisdom in us guide our lives to their destination. But if we do the former, we shall be unable to forget what might have been, and shall be haunted by a sense of ignominy; and if we do the second, we shall experience the unique happiness of fulfilment and self-realization.

Life, then, is a situation that appeals to intelligent activity. Humanly speaking, there is no such thing as a situation that is not at the same time a theory. As we live we are all theorists. Whoever has any misgivings as to the practical value of theory, let him remember that, speaking generally of human life, it is true to say that there is no practice that does not issue at length from reflection. That which is the commonest experience of mankind is the conjunction of these two, the thought and the deed. And as surely as we are all practical theorists, so surely is philosophy the outcome of the broadening and deepening of practical theory. But to understand how the practical man becomes the philosopher, we must inquire somewhat more carefully into the manner of his thought about life.

[Sidenote: The Practical Knowledge of Means.]

§ 3. Let anyone inspect the last moment in his life, and in all probability he will find that his mind was employed to discover the means to some end. He was already bent upon some definite achievement, and was thoughtful for the sake of selecting the economical and effectual way. His theory made his practice skilful. So through life his knowledge shows him how to work his will. Example, experience, and books have taught him the uses of nature and society, and in his thoughtful living he is enabled to reach the goal he has set for the next hour, day, or year of his activity. The long periods of human life are spent in elaborating the means to some unquestioned end. Here one meets the curious truth that we wake up in the middle of life, already making headway, and under the guidance of some invisible steersman. When first we take the business of life seriously, there is a considerable stock in trade in the shape of habits, and inclinations to all sorts of things that we never consciously elected to pursue. Since we do not begin at the beginning, our first problem is to accommodate ourselves to ourselves, and our first deliberate acts are in fulfilment of plans outlined by some predecessor that has already spoken for us. The same thing is true of the race of men. At a certain stage in their development men found themselves engaged in all manner of ritual and custom, and burdened with concerns that were not of their own choosing. They were burning incense, keeping festivals, and naming names, all of which they must now proceed to justify with myth and legend, in order to render intelligible to themselves the deliberate and self-conscious repetition of them. Even so much justification was left to the few, and the great majority continued to seek that good which social usage countenanced and individual predisposition confirmed. So every man of us acts from day to day for love's sake, or wealth's sake, or power's sake, or for the sake of some near and tangible object; reflecting only for the greater efficiency of his endeavor.

[Sidenote: The Practical Knowledge of the End or Purpose.]

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